Your Step-By-Step Guide to Easy Parallel Parking

April 21, 2017

parallel parking sf
San Francisco – the land of parallel parkers – Photo provided by Pixabay

I'm originally from the Bay Area and the house I grew up in didn’t have a driveway. My parent’s home is situated on a public street with a back alley – one of the last existing in the town. Because of this, the houses on the block were outfitted with garages in the back that were much less used than a traditional driveway that my friends were all blessed with.

When learning to drive at 15, I quickly noticed that if I wanted to park the car in front of the house, one of the first things I was going to have to learn is how to parallel park my grandmother’s sedan. This is the exact moment my sister gave me some of the best advice of my life on how to parallel park, which I will now share with you.

The Steps To Accurate & Simple Parallel Parking

Step #1: Pull up to the space in question and eyeball that you have room for your car to fit. When learning, make sure there’s plenty of room for you to pull in and out. After living in San Francisco for a couple years, a perfect spot is one that literally measures the length of my ‘03 Honda Civic. If it will fit, it will happen.

Step #2: Pull your car forward and line up your passenger mirror with their driver side mirror. This is weird, but it actually works most of the time, but the car in front of you that you're lining up with should be somewhat similar in size to your vehicle. If you’re parking a smart car and you line up with a Ford F-250’s mirror, this is not going to work.

Step #3: After lining up with the car, and allowing enough space between you and the vehicle, begin to back into the spot at an angle. My sister would say “turn your wheel all the way and then when you feel deep down you’re about to hit the curb, begin turning your wheel fully in the opposite direction.” Surprisingly, the also works. Sometimes you’ll inevitably hit the curb a bit with your tire and you have to pull out and try again, but most of the time, this allowed me to park seamlessly while remaining safely close to the curb.

While watching people parallel park, Step #3 is a huge miss for so many people. They simply don’t go deep enough into the spot and end up parking 2 feet from the curb, confused as to what went wrong.

Step #4: Pull you car forward and backward until you’re safely in the spot and have allowed room both behind and in front of your car. Sometimes this is one swift motion forward, and sometimes this can become five different motions because it’s a tight squeeze. Also, double check that you’re not parked on an incline or decline. If so, you’ll need to position your tires toward the curb (downhill) or away from the curb (uphill).

Tip from my grandmother: when she was teaching me to drive back in the day, she always had me point my passenger mirror more toward the ground. She said it helped cover a blind spot while also showing her where the curb is while parallel parking. To this day, I still keep my passenger mirror tilted downward for parking and it’s a huge timesaver!

Go forth and become a master parallel parker.

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About the Author

Kimberlea Buczeke is an automotive expert at RepairPal, the leading online source of auto repair resources and estimates. With many ASE Master certified mechanics on staff who have decades of experience, RepairPal knows all the fine points of car repair.

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